When It Starts

By Terry Golson


When and why it starts is a mystery. For many of us, our love of horses seems as much a part of our selves as our physical pieces, like our hearts and our feet. For the first seven years of my life I lived in a suburban house on a quarter of an acre in New Jersey. My parents had no interest in pets, or even in wildlife. Hedges were trimmed, the lawn mowed, and the natural world was mostly ignored. There was no reason for me to love horses. There was no reason for me to know what a horse was. And yet one of my earliest memories (was I three?) was going into forbidden territory, across our lawn and onto our neighbor’s (who we were not friends with, something I was somehow aware of) in order to hug their cement donkey. Some yards in New Jersey had lawn ornaments of deer, or Greek goddesses on pedestals. This neighbor had a burro. Flower baskets straddled it’s back. If I looked at it just right in the glaring sun, that donkey was alive. It wasn’t a horse, but it was equine. Close enough.

This is what I saw when I looked at the donkey.

Version 2

I know nothing about the history of this photo (it’s from my collection of vintage horse photographs) but I know everything. Look at that kind horse, standing calmly yet boldly looking at the world. Look at that little girl, in her wooly outfit, sitting securely on this massive animal, secure, confident and ready to go. That’s horse love. Do you remember when it started for you?


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11 thoughts on “When It Starts

      • Michelle

        No, I think my mom was wiser than that. She supported my interest as best she could, and when we moved to my step-dad’s childhood home in the Texas Panhandle after 6th grade, I got my first horse – and a step-grandpa who enjoyed my interest and took me under his very experienced wing to teach me everything from groundwork on.

  • Jutta

    HI Terry,
    I always loved horses from the day I saw some, which were not hard to find in rural Germany.. My mum was/is absolutely TERRIFIED of horses, but she still took me to the local pony farm and as I was old enough to my weekly riding lessons, because it was so important to me. Many many years on and I am still horse mad.

  • Laura Allemand

    I don’t remember a time that I didn’t love horses. I grew up in the ‘burbs, much like you, where horses just didn’t exist. The only way my parents were able to give me horses was to send me to horse camp from about age of 8 to about 12. That just fueled my passion more. I loved horses through my teens and twenties, but just never thought there was any way to actually own one. Then, we had a friend who owned a horse, but was moving back to Texas from California. Rather than try to transport the horse, they actually gave her to me!! I had all kinds of excuses why I shouldn’t take her, but my husband (who probably regrets it to this day!) told me now was my chance, and it may not come again. So I did. That was over 25 years and many horses ago. Now I’ve passed on my passion for horses to my 16 year old daughter (thank goodness! Horses are so much better than boys!!) My daughter was literally born in the saddle – I rode until I was too fat to haul my behind into the saddle. I think that’s why when she was born, nothing comforted her like bouncing on my knee. When she was able to sit up, she started riding with my on my bomb proof horse, who later on, was her first horse! She is now a fantastic rider (much better than me!). And I know horses are the reason for my super close relationship with my daughter. She is my favorite riding partner! Sorry for going on for so long…but as you can see, I’m just as passionate about them as you!!!

    • Terry Golson Post author

      I, too, rode horses at camp. When I was six I went to a day camp. We had a ride a week – not enough for me, so I ran through poison ivy so I wouldn’t be allowed to swim and they let me ride daily. When I was thirteen I went to a sleep-away horse camp. Heaven.

  • Jan

    My love of horses started at an early age. Just after the war my dad who worked for McMurdo’s was offered a transfer and a new life in Lesser Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada.
    We went by ship which took six weeks and landed in Hudson Bay from there we made the journey to our new life. A large log cabin was built and that was our home for nearly 10 years until my mum got seriously ill and we had to come back to England.
    I had a wonderful life there we were surrounded by wild horses that became very tame, bears, otters, wolves all manner of wildlife. We used to catch fish from the creek. We got around either by horseback or dog sled, in the winter we used to have snow like your time lapse video’s, when you are a child you only see the fun not the hard work it can cause. I used to ride bare back as in the picture we never had saddles or helmets, Heath and Safety would not be amused. I did not start school till I was 6 and we were allowed to ride to school as it was to far to walk. Wonderful memories. When we came back to England I used to work after school and weekends at a stable. But them marriage, children and grandkids came along. Horses are no longer part of my life my Doctor will not allow me to ride anymore. I love listening to Jess talking about the horse’s she looks after and I follow all your exploits with Tonka willing you on your way.

  • Lizzie from Cornwall

    I have loved horses ever since I can remember – but have never owned one.
    My first ‘horse’ was a wall at the entrance to my uncle’s yard. It had a slightly taller granite gatepost attached, which meant that when the 4-yr-old me was astride the wall, the top of the gatepost became my horse’s “head”. I even used to tie a length of string around it for reins! The only problem was that I couldn’t turn it’s head on my imagined rides!
    My friend Lesley and I (aged ten) would ‘gallop’ across the local moorland together, whinnying to each other!
    I also had a ‘dog’ which was a stick tied to a piece of string…!
    Happily I’ve had several lovely dog friends over the years – at present a retired racing greyhound called Tiggy.
    PS I still love dipping in to see the chickens etc, and am also enjoying the Tonka blog!
    All the best,
    Lizzie from Cornwall